Rappers aren’t writers! Are they? That’s what most people think. “They just rap there isn’t much depth to them”. But what happens when a rapper realizes there is more to their life than the music they create? That’s where Malice of The Clipse comes in. With a desire for people to see the man behind the music he lays it all on the line in his debut book “Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked”.
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With The Required Taste, veterans Othello and DJ Vajra are coming for the number one spot. What the listener can expect is soulful, jazz infused hip hop paired with conscious wordplay. It's a project that will definitely cater to those starved for the classic, golden era sound.
Othello, perhaps best known for his work with Lightheaded, seems to thrive when working with specific producers. He and DJ Vajra, a gifted turntablist and beatmaker who handles all the production on the album, tap into their funk and soul roots to create a sound that is both mature and expressive.
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Lecrae is back with his fourth studio album: 'Rehab'. His previous projects displayed his passion to be unashamed, encouraged believers to live for Christ after the music stops and be rebels. Rehab conveys the message of rehabilitation, redemption and recovery.
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Since the beginning of recorded music, there has been one constant: record labels. For the most part, they come and go, especially on the independent scene. Labels like Sun Records, Sub-Pop and Metal Blade have all shaped different genres in music, and have even heralded changing trends. Some of these labels live on for an extended period of time and some are absorbed by major labels.
Unfortunately, the shelf life for most indie labels is very brief, and Christian Hip Hop is not immune to that particular business truth. In the past 20 years, labels like Frontline, Grapetree, Reserved Records and Uprok were well respected, but have since gone the way of the dodo. They've been succeeded by labels like Reach Records and Illect. However, since the 90s, one record label* has continued to thrive and provide solid hip hop with a spiritual message: Syntax Records.
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St. Louis native Json has become a very familiar name in Christian Hip Hop. He has been turning heads and getting verses re-winded since he was first heard on the 116 Clique compilation in 2005. As an independent artist, he went on to drop two noteworthy albums: 'The Seasoning' and 'Life on Life.' The latter created such a buzz, that Lamp Mode Recordings picked up the unsigned artist and released a remastered version of the album last year. On his third album, 'City Lights', Json seeks not only to paint a stark picture of the inner-city, but urges the church to be the much needed illumination to dark streets.
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Griffin, if you didn't know is a Tunnel Rat, Scribbling Idiot affiliate and one half of the duo EDM (Mouf Warren of SI being the other half). Griffin is one of my favorite emcees and this was before his solo debut album ‘Samson’ was released. A lot of fans of The Tunnel Rats have been waiting for a Griffin solo effort since the 2005 self-titled TR release. Here we are five years later and End of Earth Records releases Griffin’s ‘Samson’.
What makes a healthy church? Lamp Mode and 9Marks have teamed up to let Christians know. Utilizing the “9 Marks of the Church,” (created by D.C. Pastor Mark Dever) Flame, Trip Lee, shai linne, Tedashii, and others seek to communicate the characteristics that aid in the health of the church. This album is a perfect marriage of weighty doctrinal teaching and quality rap music. Learning has never been so worthy of a rewind as it is here.
In the vein of City High, The Fugees and Black Eyed Pea's, SoulJahz came on the scene as a rap trio made up of two brothers and one sister. The lil sister, like L Boogie, can rap and sing with the best of them. Honestly, their first release caught my attention when Christian Radio wasn't playing much Christian Hip Hop in San Diego County. "Rap Revolution" was a dope cut that local San Diego Christian Radio was spinning. The song featured some dope lyricism which included rhyming every possible word ending in "ation", that you could think of and then some. The brothers Joshua and Jekob had a Onyx / Wu Tang-esque flow which I was feeling at the time. Then a few years passed and they released "The Fault Is History" which was a more pop mainstream album that included a couple re-done cuts off their first indie album. They started touring and doing their new music more like pop singers rather than rap stars.
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In the four short years since his debut album 'If They Only Knew', Trip Lee has became one of he most recognizable artists in Christian Hip Hop. His
love of down south beats paired along with his mid west flow, and 116 Clique membership, have made Trip Lee universally accepted. With his
last album '20/20', Trip displayed insight on life that betrayed his young age. On his third album 'Between Two Worlds' Trip continues to
provide unique insight on the world and it's ills. The album is focused on the believer living in this old fallen world while awaiting
the glorious new world that Christ will inaugurate at His return.
The album opens up with "Real Life Music" where Trip Lee contrasts his brand of Hip Hop from what is usually played on the radio. Over a
sample driven melody with sharp drums he riddles off lines such as "Too many spit that fake rap most just can't relate to / they don't
got no Maybach they don't get to make rules / They ain't tryna make stacks they just tryna make do". This is a great intro and prepares
audiences for a very accessible album. Trip more than ever seems to exert himself in communicating gospel truth in terms the average
listener can easily grasp. Much of the album focuses on conveying the struggles that come along with living in a fallen world. The
issues mentioned are not only things that Christians can identify with but many unsaved people may identify with even more.
In 2009 Legacy Music Records emerged from seemingly nowhere to drop one of the most talked about independent albums of the year, Katalyst's 'Death by Design'. The album was welcomed with critical acclaim because of its stellar production and mature lyrical content. These factors made it very hard to believe that it was made by a new artist who most had never heard of. With the release of Decipha's 'Rep' the label once again introduces us to a new artist whose music far surpasses his notoriety. In the process they provide listeners with more of the same high quality, Christ-Exalting Hip Hop, Legacy Music is quickly becoming known for.
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If you are currently a college student or have ever been one you are undoubtedly familiar with the concept of a cram session. They are typified by large amounts of caffeine, blood shot eyes, and high stress levels. For those unfamiliar with the idea a cram session is a group of students coming together to shove as much information into their head about the test they should have studied for a week ago. This is done with varying degrees of success. However, even if you’re a seasoned vet of last minute late night study groups nothing has prepared you for a cram session like this.
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Deepspace 5 is back with another classic crew album with all in house production and raps. When you have a crew of emcee's to represent, you get diversity in flow and production. This is the first offering from DS5 on the newly formed Mega Royal Records, headed by Dallas' own Rob Viktum, who is known for his Viktumized remix albums. This is Deepspace5's fourth crew album, even though each individual artist and the many sub crews have put out too many albums to name or try to number. When you listen to a group album, ideally you end up having your favorite rappers and sounds that stand out with each individual. This album is fresher than many of their previous albums, which may be a result of having several years both together and apart to hone their skills as emcees and producers. From Playdough's stylistic singing to Listener's "talk music," styles vary and are complimentary. The crew brought seasoned raps full of metaphors and emotion. This album is a stand out this year.
Where were you approximately 20 years ago? Me? I was a middle school hip hop head, who loved Eric B and Rakim, 3rd Bass, and, of course, MC Hammer. I was also into the sub genre of hip-house, which typically featured the quick tempos and electronic drums and synthesizers of house music mixed with the samples, scratches and vocal style of rap music. Groups like 2 In a Room, LA Style and Black Box succeeded in melding the two genres with aplomb, and while they may seem dated in 2010, trust me...in the early 90s, we loved that stuff. Well...I did anyway.
There are many parallels that can be drawn between the Christian existence and other areas of life. Analogies such as the faith as a battlefield and the Christian worker as a farmer are familiar to all in Christendom. With 'Student of Life' Memphis resident Shane Kidd introduces a new parallel to the mix. The Believer is the Student, Christ is the Teacher, and Life is the Classroom. Throughout the album this metaphor is fleshed out through witty lines and thoughtful songs. Although this is a novel concept at places it is betrayed by average music that fails to live up to its lofty ambition.
Last year in an interview with Wonder Brown, I was actually told about this album that Wonder was doing with Sean Little, and then due to my lack of memory I forgot it even existed. When I listened to the single on the album, I got excited about it and rightfully so. Listening to 'A Love Aphiliated' is an amazing experience in hip-hop and music in general. Now for those who are out of the loop, Sean Little released his album 'Scott Free' in 2008 and Wonder Brown is part of the Scribbling Idiots and has recently released an EP called 'The Gallows'. Now there's one more piece missing to this duo; a producer. This is where Vintage comes in. Vintage is most known for his beats on Theory Hazit's 'Lord Fire' project. Vintage teams up with Wonder and Sean Little to produce all the beats on this project also, making the album a must listen.
Why is it that human beings have a tendency to want to classify things? Does it make it easier for us to digest something if we can put it in a box with similar products? This seems to happen in music a lot, especially in hip hop, since it has been fractured into so many sub-genres. Sometimes I think it's the easy way out to listen to a couple of songs and throw an artist under some label. In fact, as I listened to Heath McNease's 'The Gun Show', I was tempted to do just that.
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Over the past 20+ years, I've often wondered why hip hop is so obsessed with low temperatures. Think about it...jewelry is referred to as ice, "cold" has consistently been used as an adjective in hip hop culture (i.e. "cold chillin'", "That's cold!" "Stone Cold Rhymin'"), and countless MCs have had names that alluded to refrigeration. Ice Cube, Ice T, Just Ice and of course, Vanilla Ice have all had names that alluded to cool, and maybe that's the point. After all, "cool" was used by jazz musicians in the 1940s to signify that something was hip, and hip hop took that concept to an extreme.
Ruslan is really pushing it right now in terms of work ethic, hes grinding like never before. He released 'The Freequel' then went on to release 'Scratching the Surface' with his crew Gallery Drive, and here we are with 'Right Out Loud (The Prequel)'. The 9-track EP features original production from DJ Rek, Sean P, Exile and much more, with guest rhymes from Braille, BlameOne, etc.
When hip hop was first being created by DJ Kool Herc and his contemporaries in the 70s, New York was the place to be. As time has gone on, obviously, hip hop has migrated to various localities around the nation. Since the 80s, Philadelphia has produced some major names, both in terms of commercial hip hop and the underground. Everyone from Will Smith to Eve, Roots to Jedi Mind Tricks has called The Illadelph their home base. Continuing in that city's varied tradition is Japhia Life, with his new album, Nazareth. If youve never listened to Japhia Life, then get ready to hear stories of real life filtered through imaginative lyrics and beats that just might make your head nod.
Over the past decade, in addition to his work on projects like Acts 29 and Light Headed, Braille has amassed quite the solo discography, constantly improving and refining his already promising writing and delivery. From his debut, Lifefirst: Half the Battle, to last year's Cloud Nineteen, those who have cared to have been able to witness the evolution of a great emcee. He's not a great "Christian" emcee. He's not a great "backpacker" emcee. He is a great emcee. If you're one of those who have been paying attention, and you know how great Braille is, you're still not ready for this album.
No Ordinary Love might not excel in lyricism, but it makes up for this with innovative music, heart, and well placed guest appearances. Rawsrvnt (pronounced: Raw Servant) may be an average emcee but he is an incredible artist. The songs on this album have so many instrumental and vocal parts that you might forget you are listening to a hip hop artist. There are no simple loop based beats here, instead you find very complex, well thought out music, complete with electric guitars and background vocals. These elements are all used greatly and go a long way in making up for the average rhymes.
116 Clique is a mainstay and one of the clear leaders in Christian Hip Hop. They have blazed trails with their curriculum and amazed with their focus on ministry and being in the mission field. There has been a great divide between those who are with Reach, Lampmode and Cross Movement Records and everyone else. This was mostly done by fans and not the artists themselves. However, at times I started to wonder if Reach artists were being elitist. Then I started seeing these artists building with others outside of their camps. I started seeing relationships being built publicly on Twitter. I probably should not have assumed anything.